OAKLAND -- Carson Palmer called it a "sweet" spin move, his tongue planted firmly in his cheek.Coming up short of the goal line in the Raiders' exhibition against Detroit, Palmer hit the dirt with a thud in the left corner near the north end zone at O.co Coliseum. And when he came up, he had nasty scratches along his rib cage and hip.The strawberries, though, were anything but sweet.At this time of year in Oakland, when baseball and football seasons overlap, it's an occupational hazard as the baseball infield dirt is still down. And with the A's threatening to advance to the postseason, the Raiders, who are guaranteed to play at least their first two regular season games on the dirt, would have a third game if the A's go deep in their playoffs.The wince from Palmer as he unveiled the injuries spoke volumes, but defensive tackle Tommy Kelly put a voice to the feeling."Feels like Hell," he said with a shrug. "Really, it's an uncomfortable feeling but you know, it's necessary. There's not too much you can do about it; you've just got to accept it. But I mean, it ain't fun at all."With the Miami Marlins getting their own baseball stadium this year, leaving Sun Life Stadium in their rearview mirror and the Dolphins having their football-specific facility back to themselves after sharing it since 1993, the Coliseum is the only baseball-football facility remaining. And the national television cameras will capture it all Monday night as the Raiders open the season against San Diego."I guess it adds to the authenticity," Kelly said with a laugh. "It's an old-school stadium, so it gives it that feel but trust me, we'll be happy when that dirt is gone."If the A's win the American League West and play host to a Game 7 in the ALCS, there would be a conflict on Oct. 21 as that is also the day the Raiders are scheduled to play host to Jacksonville."The dirt, man, it's one of those things you can't prepare for. It don't really hurt until you hit it, so you don't really think about it when you're playing. Sometimes you get up with a couple of scrapes, you look at it, and then you just go on to the next play."You definitely lose some footing a little bit in there. But the good thing about it is, they've got to run in it too, so it evens out."A few years ago, former left tackle Barry Sims told me about certain plays where he'd have one foot on grass, the other on dirt, as he lined up for the snap. Not the most comforting of situations.Rookie coach Dennis Allen remembered dealing with the dirt in an exhibition game when he was with New Orleans."You've got to take that into account," he said of the dirt. "Its no different than they talk about in baseball, understanding how the balls going to carom off the wall and being able to play those things. Its the same thing out there on the dirt."We know that were going to have to play on it, and not everybody plays on it. So, we want to try to use it to our advantage."
The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.
They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.
Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.
“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”
While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.
The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.
“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.
"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”
Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.
Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.
Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.
“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”
Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.
“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”